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Janis Joplin

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The greatest white female rock singer of the 1960s, Janis Joplin was also a great blues singer, making her material her own with her wailing, raspy, supercharged emotional delivery. First rising to stardom as the frontwoman for San Francisco psychedelic band Big Brother & the Holding Company, she left the group in the late '60s for a brief and uneven (though commercially successful) career as a solo artist. Although she wasn't always supplied with the best material or most sympathetic musicians, her best recordings, with both Big Brother and on her own, are some of the most exciting performances of her era. She also did much to redefine the role of women in rock with her assertive, sexually forthright persona and raunchy, electrifying on-stage presence. Joplin was raised in the small town of Port Arthur, TX, and much of her subsequent personal difficulties and unhappiness has been attributed to her inability to fit in with the expectations of the conservative community. She'd been singing blues and folk music since her teens, playing on occasion in the mid-'60s with future Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen. There are a few live pre-Big Brother recordings (not issued until after her death), reflecting the inspiration of early blues singers like Bessie Smith, that demonstrate she was well on her way to developing a personal style before hooking up with the band. She had already been to California before moving there permanently in 1966, when she joined a struggling early San Francisco psychedelic group, Big Brother & the Holding Company. Although their loose, occasionally sloppy brand of bluesy psychedelia had some charm, there can be no doubt that Joplin -- who initially didn't even sing lead on all of the material -- was primarily responsible for lifting them out of the ranks of the ordinary. She made them a hit at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, where her stunning version of "Ball and Chain" (perhaps her very best performance) was captured on film. After a debut on the Mainstream label, Big Brother signed a management deal with Albert Grossman and moved on to Columbia. Their second album, Cheap Thrills, topped the charts in 1968, but Joplin left the band shortly afterward, enticed by the prospects of stardom as a solo act. Joplin's first album, I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, was recorded with the Kozmic Blues Band, a unit that included horns and retained just one of the musicians that had played with her in Big Brother (guitarist Sam Andrew). Although it was a hit, it wasn't her best work; the new band, though more polished musically, was not nearly as sympathetic accompanists as Big Brother, purveying a soul-rock groove that could sound forced. That's not to say it was totally unsuccessful, boasting one of her signature tunes in "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)." For years, Joplin's life had been a roller coaster of drug addiction, alcoholism, and volatile personal relationships, documented in several biographies. Musically, however, things were on the upswing shortly before her death, as she assembled a better, more versatile backing outfit, the Full Tilt Boogie Band, for her final album, Pearl (ably produced by Paul Rothchild). Joplin was sometimes criticized for screeching at the expense of subtlety, but Pearl was solid evidence of her growth as a mature, diverse stylist who could handle blues, soul, and folk-rock. "Mercedes Benz," "Get It While You Can," and Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" are some of her very best tracks. Tragically, she died before the album's release, overdosing on heroin in a Hollywood hotel in October 1970. "Me and Bobby McGee" became a posthumous number one single in 1971, and thus the song with which she is most frequently identified. ~ Richie Unterberger
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Albums by
Janis Joplin

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    10 songs

    On Air

    Janis Joplin - Conciertos en Vivo

    10 songs

    On Air

    Janis Joplin Live in Concert

    30 songs

    On Air

    The Essential Janis Joplin

    10 songs

    On Air

    Pearl

    8 songs

    On Air

    I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!

    55 songs

    On Air

    Box of Pearls: The Janis Joplin Collection

    36 songs

    On Air

    The Pearl Sessions

    12 songs

    On Air

    Janis Joplin's Greatest Hits [Bonus Tracks]

    49 songs

    On Air

    Janis

    9 songs

    On Air

    Farewell Song

    17 songs

    On Air

    Janis: Little Girl Blue [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

    14 songs

    On Air

    Live at Winterland '68

    14 songs

    On Air

    In Concert

    18 songs

    On Air

    The Woodstock Experience

    10 songs

    On Air

    The Original US TV Show Appearances 1969, 1970 (Remastered, Live On Broadcasting)

    5 songs

    On Air

    Newport Folk Festival, Rhode Island, July 27th, 1968 (Remastered, Live On Broadcasting)

    21 songs

    On Air

    The Early Years, 1963-1965 (Remastered)

    14 songs

    On Air

    Piece Of My Heart - The Collection

    36 songs

    On Air

    Cheap Thrills/I Got Dem 'Ol Kozmic Blues Again Mama!/Pearl

    34 songs

    On Air

    Janis Joplin [Madacy]

    40 songs

    On Air

    Big Brother & the Holding Company/Janis Joplin's Greatest Hits/Live at Winterland '68

    1 song

    On Air

    Move Over (Gorillianaire Mix)

    3 songs

    On Air

    Mercedes Benz

    1 song

    On Air

    Les Indispensables de Janis Joplin

See All Albums

Top Songs by
Janis Joplin

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   Me and Bobby McGee
  3.   Piece of My Heart
  4.   Mercedes Benz
  5.   Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)
  6.   Summertime
  7.   Get It While You Can
  8.   Move Over
  9.   Kozmic Blues
  10.   One Good Man
  11.   Bye Bye Baby
  12.   Little Girl Blue
  13.   Cry Baby
  14.   Combination of the Two
  15.   Ball and Chain
  16.   Work Me, Lord
  17.   Catch Me Daddy by Big Brother & the Holding Company
  18.   Maybe
  19.   Down on Me
  20.   To Love Somebody
  21.   Mary Jane
  22.   Turtle Blues by Big Brother & the Holding Company
  23.   Trust Me
  24.   Flower in the Sun
  25.   Pearl
  26. See All Songs

Stations & Shows Featuring
Janis Joplin

    On Air

    Woodstock Diaries

    On Air

    Joni Mitchell: DNA

    On Air

    Jennifer Nettles: I Am The DJ

    On Air

    Little Deuce Coupe

    On Air

    Jimi Hendrix: DNA

    On Air

    Craig Morgan: I Am The DJ

    On Air

    Branch Out New Music

    On Air

    Fleetwood Mac: DNA

    On Air

    Classic Rock

    On Air

    '60s Rock

    On Air

    Grateful Dead: DNA

    On Air

    Ladies That Rock

    On Air

    Classic Rock Deep Dive

    On Air

    Coffee House

    On Air

    Neil Young: DNA

    On Air

    Vocal Hits


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